Roku Undercuts Chromecast with New $29 Player

Between computers, mobile devices, streaming players, game consoles and smart TVs, there are dozens, if not hundreds of ways to get online music and videos in your home. On the off-chance that you don’t already have one, Roku wants to change that. The company has announced a whopping five new players coming out within the next few weeks, and the company is leaving no potential demographic unserved.

In addition to the company’s redesigned streaming stick (which came out a few months ago), the company will sell six different Rokus simultaneously. The new models comprised the Roku Express, Express+, Premiere, Premiere+ and Ultra, in increasing level of price, from $30 to $130.

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The Express ($30) and Express+ ($40) are functionally identical, save for a small price difference, and the fact that the Express+ includes A/V cables for those who still use CRT TVs. Each can stream video at up to 1080p resolution, and connects via Wi-Fi. The device itself is a small black cylinder that users can either display in front of their TV or stick to the back with some included adhesive tape.

The Express is basically the Roku Stick in a somewhat cheaper, less streamlined form. It's worth noting that Roku's $30 player is now the cheapest on the market; Google Chromecast sells for $35.

The Premiere ($80) and Premiere+ ($100), on the other hand, target users with 4K TVs, or who plan to upgrade to 4K within the foreseeable future. While the former offers 4K video via HDCP 2.2-compatible TVs, the latter goes one step further and offers support for high-dynamic range (HDR) content as well. Both devices feature quad-core processors, but only the Premiere+ offers users an Ethernet port, a microSD card slot and a remote control with a headphone jack.

It’s worth pointing out that given the proliferation of HDR video and TVs that support it, the basic Premiere model appears to be limping right out of the gate. Saving $20 by foregoing one of UHD’s most prominent developments will not seem like a good investment if you plan to keep your Roku for a few years.

Finally, the Roku Ultra ($130) sets out to replace the Roku 4. Everything from the Premiere+ is present here, as well as a USB port, an optical audio port, a remote control with built-in voice search and the intermittently useful “lost remote finder” feature. To my relief, the engineers at Roku were able to remove the noisy fan from the 4 and cool the Ultra in other ways.

Every device will be available from a variety of retailers, save for the Express+, which will appear only at Walmart. Beyond that, the devices are available for preorder starting today, and should start showing up in stores around Oct. 9.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.